Documentary and the next generation

Photo by Roger Cremers.

Documentary film for young audiences

Somewhat surprisingly, IDFA’s school program was well suited to the lockdown. As Education Program Manager Marije Veenstra recalls: “Without our online platform, it would have been a completely different story.” “For about seven years now, we’ve offered Docschool Online. Teachers can join the platform for free and stream up to 140 documentaries in their classrooms alongside our provided teaching materials. Early in 2020, we added films that tie in with current global themes such as climate change, racism, and religion. When the pandemic hit the Netherlands, we immediately created accounts for students so they could watch from home. Our online environment was ready for that; without it, it would have been a completely different story. “Later on, the pandemic had a bigger impact on the festival's school program: Normally about 12,000 students visit a physical edition of IDFA, but due to COVID-19 measures, only 700 children could attend in the end. In response, we tried to spread the festival over theaters throughout the country to support the local cinema network while offering young audiences the essential experience of seeing films together. Another solution was to use classrooms as viewing locations: In 2020 we made all youth films from our school program available for in-class screenings. We gave some 6,000 children access to the IDFA program, complete with online introductions and pre-recorded Q&As with filmmakers. “Since we had just started an education collective with the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Netherlands Film Festival, and Cinekid, we were able to co-develop a program and learn from each other regarding the technical aspects. We used IDFA’s existing online platform because the system is specifically aimed at education.

“It all comes down to film education becoming increasingly important in the classroom. Children must learn to analyze images, reflect on them, and interpret them. The value of documentary as part of film education is huge because these stories are part of children’s actual lives. That’s why some years ago, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science made funds available for more film in classrooms. As part of this initiative, Eye Film Institute set up the Film Education Network, a national network we partner in. The collaboration is becoming more and more substantial. As a festival we want to be present throughout the year in the field of education and increase our national spread—something that aligns with IDFA’s goals as an institute anyway. “Because we selected films for our school program that were made in 2019, COVID-19 was not yet a theme. It was different with the Kids & Docs Competition. Among the submissions, we saw a few home-video-like lockdown films that might become historically interesting someday, but we found they weren’t visually strong enough. Senior programmer Laura van Halsema and I did see many beautiful films for young adults though. That’s why we decided to expand the competition program beyond our traditional audience of eight- to twelve-year-olds and include programming for teens as well. In the end, it’s all valuable knowledge that I’ll continue incorporating into the school program.”

Marije Veenstra, Education Program Manager

IDFA's education program is supported by Fonds 21, inVision Subtitling BV, and the Special Friends+ of IDFA.

Film still: At Eleven, dir. Carolina Admirable García.